York Town Square

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Opportunities in York County to feed your sense of discovery

One of the many astute students in my first class on “York’s Human Contributions to the World,” part of the OLLI program at Penn State York, asked a difficult question today:
How many houses of log construction remain in York County? …

I directed her to Historic York, Inc., and explained that organization wonderfully deals with the hardware of York County – houses and buildings and architecture. The other major York-area organization focusing on history, the York County Heritage Trust, specializes in software – people and issues. (Though this division is admittedly overly simplistic.)
I explained to the class that I hope they continue to develop their sense of discovery about York County – to make them want to know more and more.
And I handed out a sheet titled, well, “Opportunities to feed your sense of discovery about York County.”
I don’t mean this to be self-serving given the recommendations about blogs, but hope this is helpful to readers searching for a way into York County history and its historical community:
1. South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society – Meets first Sunday of every month. Contact: Lila Fourhman-Shaull, York County Heritage Trust, 717-848-1587, lshaull@yorkheritage.org. Genealogical Society’s site: www.scpgs.org. (See news story about a local presentation on land records below.)
2. The York County Civil War Roundtable, meets on third Wednesday, York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market St. Contact: Lila Fourhman-Shaull, www.yorkheritage.org.
3. York County Heritage Trust. Membership gives free passes to museums. Free newsletters etc. www.yorkheritage.org. 717-848-1587.
4. York Daily Record/York Sunday News Web history section, http://www.ydr.com/history, contains regular updates about local events and news.
5. The Exchange, http://exchange.ydr.com, is a local bulletin board where the community talks to each other. For example, the bulletin board contains such well-visited topics. For example, visit this thread.
6. A blogging community, www.Yorkblog.com, contains a suite of four history blogs seeking to create a virtual historical community:
a. James McClure’s, www.yorktownsquare.com, (York Town Square) brings together events, news and perspective on 400 years of local history.
b. June Lloyd’s, www.yorkblog.com/universal, (Universal York) shows that York is the center of the universe.
c. Scott Butcher’s, www.yorkblog.com/windows, (Windows into York) explores York County architecture.
d. Scott Mingus’, www.yorkblog.com/cannonball, (Cannonball) explores York County and the Civil War.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story on a recent South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society presentation by Jonathan Stayer follows:

Frank McBrier Shaffer held a hand-written warrant preserved inside a custom-made frame. The document states ownership in the late 1700s of about 100 acres in Westmoreland County by his relative, Nathaniel McBrier.
But Shaffer wasn’t looking to claim any land. Instead, he values the document because it verifies some family history.
“He was my grandmother’s father’s father,” said Shaffer, of Manchester Township. “Now, we have grandkids to pass it down to.”
Sunday, Shaffer brought the warrant to show Jonathan R. Stayer, head of the Pennsylvania State Archives’ reference section. Stayer gave a presentation at the York County Heritage Trust, which included land records, warrants, surveys, patents, and a demonstration of how to use the indexes and digital copies of records on the state archives’ Web site.
The basic process for finding information in land records includes researching the application, warrant, survey and patent, he said.
He showed about 30 members of the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society magnified projections of centuries-old scraps of paper with handwritten, detailed notes that claimed early ownership of parcels across the state.
Stayer also said there’s still land in central and western regions of the state that has not been patented. But, because of a long, demanding and complicated process, the modern-day squatter would probably have a difficult time proving residency on any of the untitled ground, he said.
Stayer showed the group how to navigate the state’s archiving Web site. Today’s technology allows a great deal of research to be done on home computers, he said.
Richard Konkel of Spring Garden Township said he has been tracing his family’s roots since about the mid-1980s.
“You can find where an ancestor actually lived,” he said of using land records. “You feel a connection to that person.”
Lila Fourhman-Shaull, York County Heritage Trust librarian archivist, said land records provide a great deal of information about early settlers in York County.
“In genealogy, you try to look under every stone,” she said. “You never know where you might find the answer.”
Jonathan R. Stayer, who heads the state archives’ reference section, gave the following tips for land-records research:
· Determine the name of the person you are looking for, the approximate date of land purchase and the location of the land.
· Copy everything you find.
· Arrange documents chronologically.
· Learn as much as possible about the specific situation of the property you are researching.
For more information, call the Pennsylvania State Archives at 783-3281 or visit www.phmc.state.pa.us.

Students are silhouetted against pictures of Civil War-era residents at the York County Heritage Trust as Justine Landis, right, describes the people of York from that period. The York County Heritage Trust is a ready avenue for people to learn about the community, as are the numerous local historical groups dotting the county. Background posts: OLLI’s theme song: ‘Don’t stop thinking about learning’, Both Yanks, Rebs camped at old York Fairgrounds and Where do you go for one-stop queries about York history?.